While many experts believe that most type 1 genes have been identified, the situation with type 2 diabetes is much different. A recent study found that the known genetic links to type 2 probably account for only about 6 percent of the genetic predisposition for that form of diabetes. This could mean either that some of the genes discovered have a bigger effect than is currently believed or that "we are still missing 94 percent of the genes," says Atul Butte, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Stanford University.
A second theory, dubbed the hygiene hypothesis, blames the rise of type 1 on a society that's too clean. Good housekeeping and hygiene habits mean far fewer interactions with germs, which in turn may foster an immune system prone to going awry. "In a developing country, you have more infectious disease. This is associated with a lower risk of type 1 diabetes," says Li Wen, MD, PhD, an immunologist at the Yale University School of Medicine. In her lab, rodents raised in hyper-clean environments are more likely to get type 1 than those reared in dirtier cages.
When it comes to diabetes, there's no real answer yet. Yes, science has begun to uncover the roots of this disease, unearthing a complex interplay of genes and environment—and a lot more unanswered questions. Meanwhile, there's plenty of misinformation to go around. (How often have you had to explain that diabetes doesn't happen because someone "ate too much"?)
Supporting evidence for Shulman's theory comes from observations about a rare genetic illness called lipodystrophy. People with lipodystrophy can't make fat tissue, which is where fat should properly be stored. These thin people also develop severe insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. "They have fat stored in places it doesn't belong," like the liver and muscles, says Shulman. "When we treat them . . . we melt the fat away, reversing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes." Shulman's theory also suggests why some people who carry extra fat don't get type 2. "There are some individuals who store fat [under the skin] who have relatively normal insulin sensitivity, a so-called fit fat individual," he says. Because of the way their bodies store fat, he believes, they don't get diabetes.
Most people with diabetes should keep a record of their blood glucose levels and report them to their doctor or nurse for advice in adjusting the dose of insulin or the oral antihyperglycemic drug. Many people can learn to adjust the insulin dose on their own as necessary. Some people who have mild or early type 2 diabetes that is well-controlled with one or two drugs may be able to monitor their fingerstick glucose levels relatively infrequently.
Type 2 diabetes is most common is those who are genetically predisposed and who are overweight, lead a sedentary lifestyle, have high blood pressure, and/or have insulin resistance due to excess weight. People of certain ethnicities are more likely to develop diabetes, too. These include: African Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and Asian Americans. These populations are more likely to be overweight and have high blood pressure, which increases the risk of developing diabetes.
You should expect your dentist to inquire about how you monitor your blood sugar and your current status (e.g. most recent HbA1c, medication profile). For most routine dental procedures (e.g. examinations, simple fillings, routine cleanings), no special alterations in the delivery of dental care are necessary. However, more involved procedures, such as extensive surgery or treatment of serious infection, may interfere with your normal diabetes management. For such cases, your dentist will work with your physician to ensure the most appropriate approach to care is undertaken. For example, if you need a surgical procedure that will temporarily interfere with your ability to eat, special modifications regarding your nutrition and medication dosing may be prescribed. Finally, if you notice any unusual changes in your mouth (e.g. swelling, pain, red areas) you should see your dentist as soon as possible. These changes may indicate the presence of an infection that may compromise your normal blood sugar control and lead to a worsening of your ability to fight infection. As a result, your infection could become more difficult to treat.
In this health topic, we explain the dangers of hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar levels, and diabetes. Hyperglycemia causes many of the warning signs of diabetes listed above. Hyperglycemia may be caused by skipping or forgetting your insulin or diabetes medicine, eating too many grams of carbs for the amount of insulin administered, simply eating too many grams of carbs in general, or from stress or infections.